West News Wire: According to the UK-based rights organisation Alqst, a Saudi woman has been given a sentence of more than 30 years in prison for anonymously tweeting about political detainees, women’s rights, and unemployment. 

According to sources inside the kingdom with knowledge of her case, Fatima al-Shawarbi, who is from the province of Al-Ahsa and is thought to be younger than 30, was condemned by the Specialised Criminal Court (SCC) at an appeal hearing. 

She was also given a 30-year and six-month travel restriction by the court.  

Shawarbi is said to have promoted women’s rights, called for a constitutional monarchy, and brought attention to the situation of the Howeitat, a tribe whose members were forcibly relocated for the Neom megaproject. 

MEE understands that she told friends whom she met online to sound the alarm if she stopped tweeting for more than a month but had not shared her real name or photo so they could campaign if she disappeared. 

Alqst was informed by sources that Shawarbi was apprehended in November 2020 and that the SCC is thought to have condemned him earlier this year. 

According to the same sources, she joined PhD candidate Salma al-Shehab of Leeds University and six other women in a hunger fast in March to protest their detention and demand their immediate release. 

According to Alqst, Shehab has learned from prison that her husband is divorcing her, highlighting instances in the past in which authorities forced the spouses of human rights advocates to have divorces. 

No one can deny it any longer, according to Lina al-Hathloul, Alqst’s head of monitoring and communications, who told MEE that information is now pouring from jails and that officials have acknowledged jailing people for tweeting. 

“It is time for the world to speak up on behalf of them all and to urge for their release immediately and unconditionally.” 

The Saudi Ministry of Foreign Affairs did not respond immediately to MEE’s request for comment. 

Read More
The US isn’t ready for what comes next from Supreme Court

The most recent Saudi to be given a hefty term for social media remarks is Shawarbi. 

The trend started in August of last year when Shehab was given a 34-year prison sentence and a 34-year travel restriction, which were ultimately lowered to 27 years, for retweeting messages supporting women’s right to drive and for urging the release of activists, notably Loujain al-Hathloul. 

A week later, Nourah al-Qahtani, a mother of five, was given a 45-year prison term due to tweets from two anonymous accounts. 

Others have followed, like Saad Almadi, a dual citizen of Saudi Arabia and the United States, who was given a 16-year term for his tweets that was then enhanced to a 19-year sentence by an appeals court before being freed in March. However, a 16-year travel ban is still in force. 

Abdullah Jelan, a university graduate who aspired to work for the Saudi government as a health educator, was sentenced to 10 years in prison and given a 10-year travel ban for making anonymous tweets that primarily discussed unemployment. 

Other Saudis are still being prosecuted for their social media activities, most recently the well-known social media influencers Manahel and Fouz al-Otaibi, who are sisters. 

The two are accused of breaking the kingdom’s cybercrime law in part for tweeting about feminism-related issues, such as calling for the repeal of the nation’s oppressive guardianship laws and urging officials to close state-run shelters for abused women and girls, according to charging documents obtained by Alqst. 

In November 2022, Manahel, 29, was detained, while Fouz escaped the kingdom to an unidentified place. 

“The Saudi authorities are doubling down on repression. We have recently learned of many more cases of unprecedented prison sentences for tweets or Snapchat videos,” said Hathloul from Alqst.  

“Reading the charges, everything has become a red line, even expressing opinions in line with the authorities’ policies. Nobody should be talking about anything else than applauding their policies.” 


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here